Monday, September 30, 2019


Today, poetry pals, we are chatting with Wendy Bourke, of Words and Words and Whatnot, who has been contemplating the question: What to do with all that poetry! I am sure we all have a ton of it, tucked away in journals and drawers. Wendy and I chatted about some ideas that may prove useful. We hope to hear what you do with your poetry in the comments!

Sherry: Thanks for thinking of this topic, Wendy. I am sure all of us have reams of poems, in drawers and totes, on cd’s and thumb drives. What to do with it all?

Wendy:  While trying to get a handle on organizing the mountain of poetry I have produced throughout my life, I came upon the following piece, that I had written in 2016

~ poetry ~

I wandered, in the hustling, unfamiliar city
on whizzing roads, through concrete mazes
in peaceful, bright spirits and spacey hazes,
that, often, accompanies a dreamy ramble through
the frenzy and the fuss that modernity confers …
as image after image, on the shifting canvas,
gifted me with snippets of scent and sound,
abracadabra’ed with bits of memory and emotion ...
impressions ... that bloomed like garland blossoms
strung together, with words that floated, as free
and natural, as notes of birdsong on a breeze

~ poetry ~

City Scene

And as I read this poem, plucked from a pile of many, many other poems, I thought to myself: 'for poets, poetry is everywhere ... figuratively ... and literally' ~ smiles ~

The first couple of years that I blogged, I saved my poems in scrapbooks ~ mistake ~ for a myriad of reasons I won't waste time going into here. Then, when I finally switched to putting them in binders, I filed them chronologically ... which worked fine ... for about a year. Who can remember if a poem was penned in 2008 or 2013? I found myself back-and-forthing through good poems and poems in need of a redo – over and over and over. And I got to the point (which is where I am now ... drowning in a sea of poems) where it became clear, that I really have to give some thought to my archiving options, before putting any more effort into yet another badly thought out direction.

It occurred to me that it might be helpful to share some methods I've employed (in my endless trial-and-error approach) that I have found beneficial ... and ask for input and info from fellow poets, about what has worked for them. Basically I want to hit the pause button and review and inquire into: 'What to do with all that poetry!'

Sherry: Let’s dive right in to this thorny topic!

Wendy: Keeping my poetry organized has been a real job, and I have often been dissappointed with the end results. I have read comments from other poets saying they have just about given up organizing their poetry.

Sherry: I hear you! I must have had a thousand poems written before I started blogging, and have written 2800 more online, according to Blogger. I have poems in notebooks, in drawers, loose in a tote. I began to get worried that when I die, my kids might inadvertently (or advertently, lol) send my life’s work to the landfill. Later, in this discussion, I will tell you how I resolved this.

Wendy: Well, let's begin at the beginning, Sherry ... which is publishing our poetry. Getting published by poetry publishers is very, very hard. I recently heard back from a publisher that had asked for submissions of one poem-per-poet. I was rejected, of course, but I took solace in the fact that so were the 5,538 'other' poets.

An organized approach can help. I once believed that volume-volume-volume was a good strategy, but (at least in my case) I have not found that to be very effective. That said, it really does make a difference if you put in the time, and read the kind of poetry that a potential publisher publishes. If it doesn't sound like a fit to your work, it won't be published.

I have found themed anthologies, or journals with a themed prompt, offer a much better chance of success. Also, new publishers (who do not have 20 years of email subscribers) are less overwhelmed with submissions.  Organizations that are supported by membership fees such as The Tanka Society of America and The Ontario Poetry Society usually guarantee inclusion of at least one piece (though they ask for several to choose from).

Smaller pieces, such as Japanese and other, often niche, small-form poems, have several publication vehicles and include more pieces (therefore, much more publishing opportunity) in their hard copy and e-zine offerings. Occasionally a poetry forum will put together an anthology from poems that have appeared on their site – as was the case, fairly recently, with the d'Verse Anthology: Chiaroscuro. 

 Poem Archives

Sherry: Poets United did a small anthology too, back in 2011. Anthologies are a lot of work, but very satisfying to members.

Many of us write mostly for ourselves and each other, and don’t bother submitting poems (though many of the more serious poets do, of course.) I have been more than happy that anyone comes along to read my poems on-site, LOL. I haven’t submitted work very often. I have work in only a half dozen anthologies.

But self-publishing is a great option, and I do know quite a bit about that.

Wendy: Self Published Books are a truly viable and, I am told, affordable option, which is why I'd love to learn more.  Also, 'one-of' photo books that celebrate a grandchild or a wedding can be a lovely, and very personal, memento.

Sherry: I am all about self-publishing. I had a cancer scare some years back, (thankfully the tumor was benign), and my one regret then was that I had not archived my work. Since getting the all-clear,  I have been using the self-publishing house (there are many) to put my work into solid form for posterity. These companies offer affordable options, a choice of layouts and templates, hard cover and soft cover, coil or perfect bound, and I can assure you the result is an affordable, bookstore quality product.

I don’t try to sell mine, but many poets do, some very successfully. I create my books mainly as an archive, though a few are available for sale. 

But one has the option of making their books available at both and Amazon. You pay as you go, per volume, order as many or few as you like. They are reasonably priced, so you can add your margin to the actual cost of the book and not only reclaim your initial cost, but make a small profit, if that is your objective.

Also, you can put a link on your blog, your readers can click on it, and it takes them right to the publishing house and/or Amazon, where a reader can purchase the book directly. The writer doesn’t have to do anything but tuck away the small profits as they come in.

Wendy: Wow! That is awesome information, Sherry. Thanks for taking the time to lay that out so thoroughly for us. I feel like I'm ready to wade into the self-publishing waters now.

Sherry: All year long, as I am blogging, I enter each poem in a template (for poetry, I use the 6x9 inch US trade perfect bound paperback template). At the end of each year, I have a book of that year's poems to edit and publish. A 225-page book of poems (text only) costs about 10 dollars for paperback, more expensive for hardcover. The books are bookstore quality. I’ve been doing this for years.

I also have done some special editions of selected poems and stories, and plan a few more. And I have made some wonderful photo-books as gifts for loved ones. I enjoy doing those the most. They are much more expensive, but absolutely wonderful to give as a gift.

I have a small shelf of my own books now, and I feel satisfied that I have honoured my work in this way. (On the far left are three large photo books. Note coil bindings are also available. But the best format is publisher perfect bound, which I use for the poetry books.)

Wendy: Golly you've got a real handle on this thing, Sherry ... beautiful bookstore quality books that hold your life's work and lovely gifts for loved ones to treasure.

In addition to going the self-publishing route though, I think I will probably continue with my binders for several reasons:

  • I like the flexibility to be able to rejig pieces that I don't feel are quite ready for publication.
  • I like to be able to move pages around, so that similar themed poems are facing each other and I get a good idea of how a book would lay out, when published.
  • I like to be able to include small coloured photographs, pertinent emails and comments and personal notes (i.e. I wrote this poem the last night we spent at the lake) that might give more meaning to the poem for others, as they come upon them.

Sherry: Oh, they sound like a treasure trove of memories. I envy you them!!!

Wendy: In a way, I guess, I think of my poetry binders almost like a journal of my poetry journey.  If anyone reading this has not yet committed to hard copies of your work, I would urge you to give it some thought. Having worked as a University Academic Secretary for decades, I have  lost track of the number of technical advances that have rendered the previous data storage device unretrievable.

Personalized Binder

As far as personalized binders go, I am a big fan. Online companies, like Zazzle, offer a plethora of imaged binders (everything from old tomes that look like something out of the middle ages to garden scenes to forests) which they personalize to your specifications. Of course, you can send in a photo you've taken and they will use that. 

These binders are in the $40.00 range. (Mine were given to me as gifts from my family.)  A binder with a clear window cover (that you can fill yourself) is a much cheaper option at around $10.00. I also am a big fan of clear sheet protectors (around $12.00 per 100). If you opt not to use them, you'll have to 3-hole punch your page, and that, with any pieces you may have taped to it, can quickly take on a tattered, messy appearance.  I use double-sided tape (as many glues eventually dry, discolour and leach through the paper). I also insert thin card stock sheets between the pages of poetry. It just gives a nicer feel to what would, otherwise, be very wobbly pages. All of these supplies can be found at any Office Supply Store.

Before filling your binders, you should decide how you want to organize it. Chronologically (which has its pros and cons), by subject matter (such as nature, for example – blog labels are made for this), or perhaps (as I did) by my favourites (my 2 pink floral binders house the poems that mean the most to me (and here, movable pages really pay off, as time goes by ... lol)

Binder as a Working Journal

I think the main idea is that the poetry that you are most happy with, proud of, and that says something about who you are, should be archived in a special way and not left to languish amongst the do-overs ... or worse: can't be found at all.  However you choose to archive your poetry, it should clearly indicate that it is poetry ... and not just a box (or binder) of papers.

Sherry: That is very key! (Am thinking of the landfill as the Last Resort of my work. Ack!) 

Wendy: We put so much of ourselves into our poetry. We owe it to ourselves, to our family and friends, and to our descendants (who – you never know – might have a poetic bend and be curious about what Great-great-great grandma or grandpa wrote) ... Well, a poet can dream ...

Sherry: Yes, we dream, we dream…… family tends to act as if my poetry is a slightly embarrassing aberration we don't talk about, but maybe once I’m gone, they’ll pop one of the covers. Smiles.

Thanks for this informative chat, Wendy. Friends, we would love to hear from you. Do you archive your work? In what format? Have you tried any of these options and, if so, how satisfied are you with the results? Let us know in your comments, okay?

And do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows, it might be you!


  1. Hello, and what an interesting discussion. Having done the editing of an anthology together with the d'Verse, writing collaboration short story collections I know all the hard work that goes into the publishing. But also the rewarding part of seeing your words in print.

    Also of course the design part of the publishing, the typesetting and making the cover, all those aspects that you never do in blogging.

    That said, I think the blog in itself is the archive. I think the first part of making sure my poetry would be found is to index it better, add my own readings on soundcloud or youtube and connect to my blog. There are so many ways to preserve your blog.

    I like Kerry's way to write her poems by hand and publishing them on instagram for everyone to see (and at least instagram has a process to turn it to a memory page after your passing).

    1. Oh that's interesting, Bjorn! I havent tackled the intricasies of instagram yet, but I gather it is trending big-time these days.

    2. Oh, I'm new to Instagram and didn't know about that memory page thing. Interesting!

    3. @Rosemary, Facebook has the same memory page option. I found it quite interesting, too.

    4. Thanks, Magaly. So much to learn! Oh, and thanks to Bjorn for the reminder about Soundcloud. A wonderful extra for those like him and me who regard our blogs as our main archives.

  2. Thank you, Sherry, for your chat with Wendy. Not only do I share a love of poetry with Wendy, but I also used to share her surname. Yes, my first husband was a Bourke; he was Irish, and his father came from County Mayo. My daughter was also a Bourke until she married a few years ago.
    I like the topic and enjoyed reading about Wendy’s mission to organise her poetry, and the poem she found in the process!
    I found the section about publishing poetry very interesting, Wendy. I’m currently in the process of self-publishing some flash fiction and short stories. I have also found some success in having poetry published in themed anthologies, as well featuring in and being part of the editorial team of the dVerse Anthology: Chiaroscuro.

    1. Hi Kim. Thanks for stopping by. Ah yes, that Bourke name. I was told (50 or so years ago) it is pronounced Birk … though, to this day, I run into folks who try to convince me, it should be pronounced Bork (as in rhyming with O'Rourke). When my daughter-in-law announced that she was taking the name, my daughter told her that she should think it over - adding "trust me: you will come to loath that dreaded 'u' as much as we all do" ~ ha ~

  3. I am happy to hear you are self-publishing, Kim. Years badk to self-publish, one had to give a publisher a few thousand dollars up-front. I am blown away by how easy and affordable it is to do now. A boon to we writers!

  4. Does anyone organize by subject using the label function of blogger, for example? And Sherry, if I go to Lulu can I find and order a book or two of yours? I did one book with Lulu a few years back and I am due for another. (I also like the option of small presses like the ones that published Mama Zen and others poems. They have an important editorial process, and put lots of time into it. I found it valuable even though it did not publish my book. Is that press still operating?) This is a great topic, Sherry and Wendy. Thanks!

    1. Susan, I haven't had occasion to do it yet, but I do label my blog posts in such a way as to allow for that if desired – not only by subject, also by theme and by poetic form.

    2. Susan, when I've been organizing my poems and stories by subject (outside the blog) and goodness gracious! I wish I had done a better job at labeling in the past.

    3. I wish I had used labels too as I forget what I have written and could never find them by title....Susan, I have two of my book links on the right side of my website...I need to put a couple more links there, I havent paid much attention to selling books. Give me a bit of time and will put some links up so you have a bit of choice, lol. I hope you do another book, your last one is stupendous!

    4. (Priscilla King) I've used the labels to make it easy for people to filter which posts to read on my Blogspot. There are labels for other people's content and for topics and genres of mine.

      I don't think of electronic storage as secure enough to count though. Google's failure this morning reminds me that anything electric, much less electronic, is useless during a power outage and anything connected to the Internet *will* be hacked and attacked. I have downloaded a few e-books, but don't think of them as real books--would never consider paying for an e-book.

      For "real" storage I print things out and store them in paper portfolios, the kind Wal-Mart sells for 15 to 25 cents apiece. They're shelved--other people's writing goes alphabetically by author and mine, since there's a lot of it, goes by topic and genre in a rough approximation of the Dewey Decimal System. I have a tall bookshelf full of printouts by now.

      Then there are the shelves, stacks, and boxes of Real Books...

  5. A fascinating discussion! Before the advent of the internet, I was successful in getting my poetry published in literary journals, newspapers, anthologies, and even several books by small publishers. When I moved away from a capital city to a small country town, the internet was happening. I started blogging and social networking, and liked that way of reaching people with my writing. Still do, obviously!

    Is being printed on paper really a great way to archive one's work? I have one of the best (physical) poetry libraries around, collected over decades. Also I‘m a former librarian by profession, once attached to a particular library responsible for collecting Australian poetry. Books deteriorate. And time reveals that not all poetry lasts non-physically either. I continue to value the books I've kept, but I found in that 'deposit collection' of Australian poetry that some works which seemed wonderful in their heyday later fell flat.

    [Perhaps that doesn't matter; perhaps it's OK for our stuff – or some of it – to be of the moment only. Clearly we ourselves can't tell, nor our contemporaries. Only time sorts that out. So we may as well not worry and just keep doing the best we can.]

    I used to use big two-ring binders, one for poems published, one for those still unpublished, filing my poems alphabetically by title. I put on them the date written, or sometimes the date begun and the date deemed ‘finished’, and also the date and place of publication when applicable. They went into ‘pre-2000’ and ‘2000+’ volumes. I still have them, for my own reference. (And yes, without plastic sheets, they do look tatty now!)

    Since 2006 I've embraced the internet. Now I keep my poetry in folders on my computer, one for each year with files arranged alphabetically within them. I also copy poems into other folders such as those in a particular book, a collection of all my haiku, whatever. I have one folder of stuff to be revised: things not working well enough to be shared yet. I'm paranoid about losing them, so I keep one copy of everything on my computer, another on a separate hard drive, and I also store them in both the Cloud and Google Drive.

    I also regard my blogs as an archive. One which I closed, because it developed a glitch I couldn't eradicate, is now officially an archive. I don't think many people look at it though, apart from spammers, except when I share something from it in our Poetry Pantry. But if anyone wishes to find my work in the distant future, maybe it will still be findable.

    I’ve also self-published a few ebooks via Smashwords. And I’ve participated in two different collaborations, each published by a (different) collaborator, one as ebook only, one as paperback too. They don't sell well but are available for posterity if desired.

    One of my writing students has been publishing via Amazon – poetry, fiction, memoir, self-help, in paperback and ebook. They look good and it's free and easy. (I think Amazon takes a percentage of sales.) I think it’s probably the best current option.

    I'm now devoted to ebooks for many reasons. I toy with the idea of making yearly books like Sherry does, but non-physical. My friend Neil Meili (of Texas) produces small stapled paperbacks of his poetry yearly to send to friends. They look nice, sometimes contain b&w photos, and he gives each a theme. He collates them himself and gets them bound by somewhere like Officeworks. He writes short poems and is not prolific, so this works well: maybe 20 poems max per booklet, and each booklet signed. I don't know how many copies he produces of each. Great idea, but if I were to do something like it, mine would be pdf files emailed.

    I sometimes think of appointing literary executors. But what a burden to put on anyone! I think the blogs can just sit there as long as they do. Even books on a shelf may gather dust unread. I think it comes back to reaching people NOW. And I think blogs do that better than (paper) literary magazines.

    1. PS I don't say no to submitting to paper journals and anthologies; it's really nice to get published anywhere. But I'm so busy these days that's it's easier to stick to blogging unless I'm invited to submit somewhere, e.g. as a participant at dVerse, or by some editor who happens to remember me.

    2. Sherry's yearly idea is brilliant. I've been working on separating some of my better poems by subject, to see about putting a collection together. After that, a yearly thing would be grand.

      And like you, Rosemary, my relationship with ebooks if very close.

    3. Good point about our blogs once we are no longer here. I want to ask my poet friend Chris, who is younger than I am, to make sure it stays alive online.......have to take care of that. Magaly, the annual book really creates itself. I input the poems either weekly or month by month, then at the end all I have to do is an edit. I love watching each year get added on the shelf. And text only books are super reasonable in price.

    4. I have made my son an admin of my blogs just in case.

  6. I am loving the way that our Poetry Community is contributing to this post with personal accounts and suggestions of what fellow poets are doing with 'All that poetry'. That is exactly what I was hoping for when I suggested this story idea to Sherry. In some ways, I felt like my grasp of the resources and strategies for publishing and archiving my poetry was 'stone age' at best. I just knew that there was a lot I didn't know.

    Since I collaborated on this article with Sherry, one of my sons, Patrick, and I have taken on a project with my poems that I'm very excited about.  Pat has a background in broadcasting and enjoys playing around with recording. Being the awesome guy that he is ~ smiles ~ he was pleased to give me a hand with an idea I had. My sister had complained that she was at a loss as to what to bring (by way of a small gesture/gift) when visiting a friend in hospice (who, as it happens, had once mentioned that she enjoyed my poetry).  Her friend couldn't have plants or flowers or candy and didn't have the concentration for a book.  That lit the spark of an idea: a 15 min download of 24 of my nature/relaxation poems read aloud and set to really nice sound affects (birdsong, rain, even a train on the tracks, etc).  Pat has the voice for the job (I don't ~ lol ~) and the sound effects dissolving into the spoken pieces is very cool (if I do say so myself). There are photos that match with the poems and the option to turn off the sound and read the pieces, thus allowing the experience to unfold at its own pace and allow time for a bit of conversation.

    We've had a blast working on this little family project.  Basically, we are looking at people who, for whatever reason, are stuck inside (including workers on a coffee break) when they'd much rather be relaxing outdoors for a bit … but can't.  We haven't finished the final product yet, but it sure has been a fun family project!

    Thanks for making this happen, Sherry. And my thanks to everyone for their comments. I'll check in, periodically, over the next 24 hours.  

    1. Oh! I hope you write some prose *cough* about the poetry project with your family. It sounds fantastic!

    2. Wendy, I LOVE the sound of that idea! How lovely for those lying in bed, to listen to lovely poetry-with-background sound effects. A brilliant idea. I can see hospices everywhere loving something like that for their wards......seniors' homes.......a lovely idea.

    3. It is an idea that I would love to see 'catch on' with poets everywhere - hence my reason for sharing it here … different languages … different background sounds … different themes. In the case of those in hospital gifts/expressions of concern are very limited (mainly to plants and flowers). In my personal and professional life, I have ordered a lot of flowers. And sometimes I haven't ordered anything because flowers were not wanted or allowed. People want to express their concern, at such times, and I think there is a real void there. It would be lovely to see it filled with poetry.

  7. Sherry and Wendy, I really loved this exchange. I've been trying to organize my writings and it has been taking me forever. The process is often fun (when I find something I forgot writing) and frustrating (when I can't find something I remember writing). I've been better at keeping records, especially writing dates. Still, I think I have a long way to go, particularly when it comes to short stories. But... It feels good to know that I'm not the only one struggling, lol.

  8. I do date my poems. But I write so many I forget them instantly and, like you, am surprised when I encounter them, and frustrated when I cant find a particular one. The label feature would have been a good idea. Sigh.

  9. What a great interview with some useful advice.. i worry about Blogger crashing or become extinct as i never save my poems..the self publishing idea is good..but there is indeed a mountain to get through. Thanks for the tips Wendy and Sherry

  10. Thank you, Sherry and Wendy for this lovely gathering of insight! I, have been considering what to do. I love all that info you both shared. It is time to gather and get it done! Thank you, so much~

  11. Jae, that is a relevant worry. My first blog was on MSN and it did get lost when MSN shut the blog section down. It was horrifying. You might make it a winter project to type out your poems, a few a day, into a file, and then print them out. Your poems are too beautiful to risk losing.

    1. Or you could copy and paste from your blog to a file, which would be quicker.

    2. PS The copy and paste works best if you do it from the 'Edit' page of your blog rather than the 'Published' i.e. posted version, where extra unwanted coding may be added which could be a nuisance later if you decided to do something more with your files.

  12. I think that compared to other writers I don't have as much to organize. I didn't write poetry until I had a blog which had little direction. I just knew I wanted to write. Still, I do have at least ten years of poems and though I think of organizing them often, I've done nothing about it. I like the ideas brought forth here. This post inspires me to take action. Thank you Sherry and Wendy.

  13. What a fantastic idea. Most of my work is online - saved in various formats. Most in multiple locations in case one or another disappears. I used to write everything long hand first and then transfer it to the digital medium and over time it has now reversed so I handwrite those I most want to keep. I'm thinking the binders are a good way to go for the time being and perhaps a yearly self-published anthology? You really have me thinking!

  14. Yay, am happy this has sparked some interest in honouring your work by putting it in some sort of physical format. It is a wonderful feeling, holding your own book in your hands!

  15. Sherry was the instigator for me to publish thru - thanks, Sherry!
    I tend to use my blog as the archive though most of my older poetry is packed away somewhere in a closet. Not having kids, not sure what will happen to any of it anyway. And maybe that is a good thing - poetry is at once concrete and ephemeral.
    I am planning to put together another book to have ready for gift giving season - and it will be done on again. Really is one of the easiest self publishers I have used.
    Thank you, wonderful poets, for this conversation. Its always instructive to hear how other writers work.

  16. Kathleen, how delightful to see you here! I am happy lulu has worked for you. I, too, find it very easy and as I am non-tekky to the MAX, I figure if I can do it, anyone can. Smiles.

  17. Fascinating discussion. Like Bjorn, I think my blog is my archive, though I have backups on Word. I agree that the best way is to collate by subject (or year like Sherry does) and publish, so it is more accessible. I dredged up my archives when I published my book - now I create PDFs for smaller themed collections that I email on request to interested readers - this has been a great way to spark conversations about poetry and get great feedback.

  18. I absolutely love this post. I have been writing for a long time. I have a lot of poetry saved on my computer and of course my blog is actually my story. I have been wanting to create a book to share my dream journals and poetry.

    Thanks everyone for your insight tips.

    Now, where to start?

  19. Great chat Sherry and Wendy. Loved it.


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